Yes, I’m a leg man. I confess.
Female legs are a sexual eccentricity. Identical to male legs, they elude the scrutiny of the erudite scholar who tries to pin down their appeal. Amazingly, throughout much of history, from the Byzantine Empire under the Justinian dynasty to Chiang Kai-shek’s Old Shanghai, women’s legs were subject to the same cultural taboos surrounding more globular body parts, tucked behind petticoats and under long dresses until they became objects of fantasy and desire.
The fascination with legs peaked in the Victorian era. In his A Diary in America, Captain Marryat recounts a time when a young woman he was accompanying scraped her knee at Niagara Falls. When Marryat asked if her “leg” was okay, she sheepishly answered that a gentleman should only refer to “limbs” in the presence of a lady, and never “legs,” even when discussing armchairs. Clearly, to utter the word leg in polite society was borderline scandalous—even in private bedrooms, the word made for good dirty talk. Yet, more than a century and two world wars later, the appeal of legs remains at a pico top.
But why? Some answer that legs are alluring because of what lies between them. Others, diving deeper, postulate it must have to do with the dialectical opposition between chastity and sodomy and how the form of the leg embodies the negation of the negation. No matter where we find these two ideas, they argue, from the religious rites of primitive tribes to modern psychoanalytical case studies, the interdependence of the two is evident—sexual apotheosis is an essential function of sainthood. True: what makes legs so eroticized is in the mind, not the body, but in a subject at once so humble and heavy with emotion, the dialectic must yield to a more modest attitude of mind. To the delight of the sensual platonist, the appeal of legs, in my opinion, stems from the fact that they extend female autonomy, which constituted a danger to enlightenment-era bourgeois society.
Alas, we are freed from the cave: underskirts weren't just intended to hide legs. They were there to confine them, in much the same way footbinding restricted female mobility in pre-modern China. There was a palpable fear that if women gained mobility, they would break free from their chains and run from their housebound lives, forcing powerful and independent men to retreat back into the domestic sphere and endure the same nauseating ennui that they have suffered (could there be a Monsieur Bovary?). There was, in the patriarchal cultural zeitgeist, a subconscious admission that the comparative freedom enjoyed by men was far more appealing than what was proper for the fairer sex.
That the establishment is always in the act of elaborating itself is evidence enough that it is perpetually at risk: that it is conscious of its own possibility of becoming undone. And so it was.
The unlikely vehicle for change was the bike, which Susan B. Anthony declared to have “done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world.” At the turn of the 19th century, women fell in love with peddling these flashy new two-wheelers and adopted appropriate sporty knee-length bloomers that freed legs from their imprisonment. And, as hemlines shortened, the need to cover skin increased. Enter the stocking. Flappers would dance their way around the most elaborate breaker mansions in them only a decade or two later. Nylon would go on to earn the moniker “the fiber that won the war” against Nazis. On the heels of Bettie Page, America entered a golden age of silk stockings, shiny polymers, and progressive female enfranchisement.
Men who love legs are unlike those who prefer more bourgeois erogenous zones. They are, as a whole, better educated, more creative, and more likely to prefer strong, assertive women, as female strengths reside in the legs (look it up!). Admiring a woman’s legs might also have more to do with an innate attraction to the sensual, rather than the more explicitly sexual. As a group, these men are more open to new experiences, reflecting their exceptional intelligence and preference for the body part that is most open to imagination.
This might be the real reason women’s legs were kept covered for so long. The moral certainties of life were imperiled when they hiked up their skirts, cheering on Rosie the Riveter as she beat down the Schutzstaffel. Women in and out of uniform and hosiery helped the allies teach the axis powers what the better half of humanity can accomplish. Hitler never saw it coming.
Yes, I’m a crypto bro. I confess.
Crypto is a financial eccentricity. Seemingly equivalent to magic internet money and more conventional multilevel pyramid schemes, crypto eludes the scrutiny of the sarcastic podcast host who tries to pin down its appeal. Yet, throughout much of history, from the time of the Knights Templar to the abandonment of the gold standard, we have had many alternative forms of currency that evolved and derived from the same barter economy. If it weren’t for the modern mafia nation-states that successfully monopolized the means of violence, fiat currency would no doubt be subject to the same cultural taboos surrounding more abstract and memetic forms of value storage. In the end, for you and I, all that matters is how easily I can convert one commodity into something else of equivalent value: Alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange. Ergo, any commodity is a de facto currency. True, some storages of value serve as better currencies than others due to scalability, portability, fungibility, divisibility, liquidity, and more, but any difference is, in fact, customary (made up).
The fascination with crypto (has thus far) peaked in the 2022 bull-run. In his 280-character tweet, famous economist and influencer Peter Schiff announced that “Long-term Bitcoin #HOLDers aren't worried as they've been through 73% declines before. But previous declines didn't involve anywhere near the total market cap lost during this decline, nor did they involve massive leverage.”
When Schiff declared, “This crash is just beginning. #Bitcoin will not recover,” he was echoed by tycoons like John Reed Stark, Former Chief of the SEC Office of Internet Enforcement, and Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank. Clearly, to utter the word “Vitalik” in polite society has become taboo, and even in private bedrooms, the word makes good dirty talk. Yet, more than 385 entries declaring Bitcoin to be dead later, the appeal of crypto and Web3 remains higher than ever.
But why? Some answer that crypto is alluring because of the Marina Bay Superyachts. Others, diving deeper, postulate it must have to do with the dialectical opposition between Big-Other totalitarianism and individual sovereignty and how the new decentralized cybereconomy (what we call the metaverse) connecting super-local network states embodies the negation of the negation. No matter where we find these two ideas, they argue, from the Nozickian night-watchman states to Skinner’s Walden Two, the interdependence of the two is evident. True, what makes the crypto ideology so alluring is in the mind, not the body, but in a subject at once so seemingly humble and heavy with emotion, the dialectic must yield to a more modest attitude of mind. To the delight of the sovereign individual, crypto’s allure lies in the fact that it actually poses a threat to the supremacy of states’ monopoly of financial systems and the growing control that web2 tech conglomerates have over the attention of people as they allow for true independence while maintaining interconnectedness.
Alas, it was Zuckerberg who first proved that capturing attention was, in fact, more valuable than min-maxing a conventional business that churned out expenses and sales revenue. He figured out that attention is the currency in which we spend time, and more attention would inevitably lead to a whole lotta money (and now he wants to keep all of it). Thus, the heavy-handed regulations and muckraking about crypto weren't just intended to discredit but to destroy it. There is a tangible fear that if artists and other creators gained agency, they would break free from their robber baron overlords and escape their assembly-line-bound lives, forcing the cabal of powerful and independent CEOs to reevaluate how they were going to honor their fiduciary duty to angry shareholders. There was, in the consumerist cultural zeitgeist, a subconscious admission that the comparative freedom enjoyed by web3 creators and DeFi self-custodians was far more appealing than what was available from the anachronistic services from bulge bracket banks. No more vampire squids.
That the establishment is always in the act of elaborating itself is evidence enough that it is perpetually at risk, that it is conscious of its own possibility of becoming undone. And so it was.
I believe that the vehicle for change is NFTs. In 2020 people became determined to purchase PFPs and embraced hexagons on Twitter featuring anime Waifus and poorly-drawn cartoon animals. That was just the beginning—soon, digital goods in the form of non-fungible tokens living on blockchains began to cannibalize all forms of art, trading cards, online avatars, limited edition skins, music albums, emotes, AR&VR clothing, digital badges (OATs and poaps), and more. On the heels of Cryptopunks, our increasingly connected 地球村(Earth-city) entered a golden era of phygital interactive lifestyle brands that were decentralized and community-governed. These siloed but also paradoxically interwoven communities will pave a new way of socializing, particularly in the post-COVID era where zoomers can find a collective sense of purpose and belonging.
People who love crypto are unlike those who prefer more bourgeois employment. These freelance cyberpunks Katana-dueling in The Black Sun are more likely to prefer permissionless, decentralized governance structures, as strong independence resides in self-sovereignty. Identifying and vibing with a monkey jpeg might also have more to do with an innate attraction to idealism rather than explicit consumerism and flex-to-earn. Whereas traditional brands are made up of gatekeeping enthusiasts bonded by their similitude, these new culture-communities are composed of dynamic subgroups, each with different reasons for being part of their distinctive whole. These new leaders listen because everyone is and becomes a cofounder in this community, bolstering communication and IP activation. These communities are not zero-sum; they are positive sum. They are ones where techno plutocrats don’t call the shots, and degens are allowed to talk about hentai and tokenomics and Yoyoi Kusama all the same. They restore agency to the regulars who toil 24/7 only to be used as battery packs for big companies, their monetized units of attention harvested by private shareholders. As a group, these Young Pioneers are unusually open to new experiences, reflecting their superior intelligence, education, and preference for a new world that they get to shape in their own image, building a web 3.0 that is more cooperative instead of extractive.
Crypto may be down bad, but it won’t be down bad for long: not given the amount of human ingenuity at work. To end, the moral certainties of life were imperiled when women hiked up their skirts, cheering on Rosie the Riveter as she beat down the Axis Powers. Now, they are imperiled once again as crypto threatens to revolutionize Third-Reich-era military-industrial complexes and empower the sovereign self while simultaneously tackling the age-old racial and gender biases that have persisted since the great war and the baby boom. Just as I prefer nice legs, I prefer my money to be ultrasound. Cryptobros in and out of the High Castle are here to help the degens teach the big tech conglomerates the power of the decentralized movement. The SS will never see it coming.
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